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SCF takes action to prevent sexual harassment against athletes

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - It took eight years for three-time Olympic Gold Medalist Aly Raisman to share her story of sexual abuse.

125 total victims have forward forward with allegations against former U.S.A. Gymnastics Team Doctor Larry Nassar. He pleaded guilty to three charges of Criminal Sexual Conduct and seven charges for sexually abusing girls under 15. In Raisman's book Fierce released in November, she wrote, "realizing that you've been a victim of sexual abuse is a horrible, sickening feeling." 

Centerstone support and treatment center said victims ten to come forward together, knowing they're not alone.

"Certain groups come together at certain times, then you start to see a snowball effect," explained Cathy Wilson, Vice President of Hospital Services for Centerstone.

Centerstone served 1,024 individuals between October 1, 2016 and September 30, 2017 through Rape and Crisis Center services. Wilson said she gets why some people have trouble understanding athletes could also be victims.

"[People think] they're immune to that. They're not going to be victims of something like this. But, it's really about power and control and making someone feel like they don't have control over what's going on," explained Wilson.

"They're teachers on the field and in a sport. There should always be a professional relationships but there's a mentoring relationship that takes place as well," explained State College of Florida Athletic Director Matt Ennis.

To stop a potential issue from forming, SCF requires all staff members complete training sessions before working with students and athletes. According to Ennis, SCF buckled down after former Penn State Football Coach Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of 45 counts of Child Sex Abuse. Ennis explained the school has always been proactive.

"They go through sessions like prohibitive training. They go through training about Title IX and what it means," said Ennis.

The NCAA is taking action at the college level. It created a Sexual Assault Task Force in 2015 to address assault claims among students, staff, and athletes. Wilson believes similar programs will inspire other victims to come forward.

"We're a very victim blaming society. It's always about why a victim was somewhere and what they were doing instead of looking at the perpetrator and their motives," said Wilson.

"Every school should have a system for these things. Being quiet isn't going to solve anything," said Ennis.